Belal Muhammad will no longer be denied a shot at UFC gold.
With Leon Edwards‘ successful defense of the welterweight world title against Colby Covington at the promotion’s final pay-per-view of the year, ‘Rocky’ will be looking ahead of his next challenger. All signs currently point toward that being Belal Muhammad, who currently sits as the No. 2 ranked contender with a nine-fight win streak.
The seemingly inevitable title tilt will serve as a rematch of their March 2021 clash that unfortunately ended as a no-contest after Edwards rendered Muhammad unable to continue due to an accidental eye poke.
Speaking with Luke Thomas of Morning Kombat, Muhammad offered some insight into what he learned while sharing the Octagon with Edwards two years ago.
“I think I learned a lot,” Muhammad said. “There were a couple of sequences in there where he shot a takedown, and had double underhooks, and I brushed him off pretty easily. I understood distance. I understood feinting, but for the most part, that whole week was chaos because it was on three weeks’ notice and I was coming off a Dhiego Lima fight where I took like 40 odd calf kicks.
“Before I took the fight, I was messaging Paul Felder and asking, ‘Bro, how long did it take for your leg to heal after you fought Barboza’ and we were just doing a lot of running around.”
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Belal Muhammad believes Leon Edwards’ best skill is maintaining distance and forcing opponents to fight at his pace, which is, for lack of a better term, slow. ‘Remember the Name’ suggested that much was evident in his somewhat lackluster title defense against Colby Covington at UFC 296 earlier this month.
“I think what he’s actually good at is distance management,” Muhammad said. “He understands kicking range. He understands when he’s in boxing range and he’s good at pulling fighters into his style of fight. Slowing the fight down and slowing the pace down. He couldn’t do it in the second fight with Usman because Usman kept the pace up and he fought confident. Walked him down the whole time. In the third fight, that was more a hesitant Usman and Leon did what he does.
“He stayed on the outside. Low kicked him, body kicked him. Didn’t really do much. Even with the Colby Covington fight. Stayed on the outside in kicking range. Low kick, body kick. There wasn’t a lot of action in there. He threw less than 100 strikes the whole fight. For a champion and for him to say, ‘Bully B’s not exciting,’ I’m looking at this guy like, bro, you literally threw 50 strikes the whole fight. That was embarrassing for a guy who’s considered an amazing striker.”
Throughout the 25-minute affair, Edwards landed a lowly 57 significant strikes, but that was still more than Covington who landed 44. However, ‘Rocky’ landed two of three takedowns while Covington failed to finish eight of his 10 attempts to take things to the ground where he typically shines.
“You’re going against a guy who has amateur striking in Colby Covington and has no knockout power,” Muhammad continued. “You could have literally turned it up on him and embarrassed him, but you didn’t because he’s comfortable just settling for that win and he’s at that point now where it’s like, I just want to do enough to win. I don’t care about anything else. As long as I hit enough to win, I’m gonna do that.
“We’ve seen that in his other fights. You didn’t finish Nate Diaz. You didn’t finish Donald Cerrone. You didn’t finish RDA. All these guys are lightweights and you’re talking this big game like you’re some killer. Like, headshot, bang. You had one finish in how many fights?”
Belal Muhammad Reveals His Keys to Victory Against Leon Edwards
As for how he plans to walk away with the gold when he eventually goes toe-to-toe with the reigning world champion, ‘Remember the Name’ believes it’s all a matter of mixing it up and making ‘Rocky’ feel uncomfortable.
“Just making him uncomfortable,” he said. “Getting in his face, pushing him backward. Wrestling with him. When he wants to strike, striking with him when he thinks we’re gonna wrestle and then make it like the first fight with me where he shot in because he was getting uncomfortable in certain situations.
“So just keep doing that. Not letting him fight at his pace. Letting him fight at my pace and I don’t think there’s a guy in the division that can keep up with my pace. People thought Colby was going to do that to him and that’s why that fight was interesting because Colby can keep that pace up, but he didn’t do that at all. So when I do that and I think I have way more power than Colby, I think that’s why Leon is trying to avoid me right now.
“There are easier fights than me and I think I am the toughest stylistic matchup for him in the division.”
Getting a shot at the UFC title has been like pulling teeth at times for Belal Muhammad. Even now, ‘Bully B’ has not been formally announced as the next man in line. The mere notion of him getting the next welterweight title shot online seems to send fight fans into an absolute frenzy.
“The fans have a mob mentality,” Muhammad continued. “Kind of like with Aljo where he got hurt in that Petr Yan fight and all of a sudden, they switched up and started hating him. After I got poked in the eye by Leon Edwards, everyone started coming at me so hard. I got poked in the eye. The fight ended because he fouled me. It was weird how it all of a sudden switched. Since then, I’ve been fighting fan favorites. I’m fighting Demian Maia, Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson, Gilbert Burns, [Vicente] Luque. They have a huge fan base behind them.
“I’m literally one of the nicest guys in the world, but I go out there and I beat them and I feel like people are just mad that I’m beating their favorite fighters.”
Watch the full interview below: